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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Celeste Riley, Peter Barnes, Connie Wagner and Nellie Pou to bring New Jersey’s unemployment benefit system in line with 21st century technology and help out-of-work residents more easily manage their benefits is now law.
“We should be taking advantage of all the technology available to alleviate some of the burden on out-of-work residents who are already dealing with countless other stresses,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This program is a vital lifeline, one that should be available 24-7. With this law, we’ll make sure that happens for the benefit of working class residents.”
The law (A-3494) provides that claimants may access unemployment insurance claims on a website developed by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
“The current system only exacerbates the stress of being unemployed by placing limitations on the days and hours that people can file claims via the Internet, restricting claimants from opening claims via the Internet or freezing someone’s claim if they fail to file for weekly benefits within the prescribed time period,” said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “That’s unacceptable and I’m glad that’s about to change.”
“It’s incredibly hard to reach the department by phone,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Callers often get a recording instructing them to call later due to long wait times. On occasions when they do get through, they are subjected to lengthy hold times, and when they do manage to speak to an actual person, it is only to schedule a call with a representative for weeks later. This change will help ease that frustration and bring residents needing help a modern system.”
The website has allowed claimants to file for benefits online only during business hours. It also restricts which days specific claimants can file claims. Meanwhile, many other states have UI Web sites that are accessible 24/7 without restrictions as to what hours or days claimants can file their claims online or close out claims.
“Another downside has been that you must make an appointment to speak to a representative in order to cancel or close a UI claim,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “This can sometimes take several days or even weeks, keeping claims open longer than needed and resulting in unnecessary benefit payments or unintentional UI fraud. That’s why this change is so welcome, especially for our middle-class seeking help until they find work.”
“With unemployment still hovering near 9 percent, it’s no wonder the current system is inundated,” said Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By shifting to a fully available online system we will alleviate a great deal of stress for our out-of-work residents and better handle the demand for unemployment services.”
The law takes effect in 120 days.